Guest Column: DNR needs new approach to CWD in deer

By David Wiehle

Note: This is the first in a series of articles about CWD.

This info is from “Illinois Chronic Wasting Disease 2009-2010 Surveillance/Management Summary,” available from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

“Prior to July 1, 2009, IDNR personnel tested 43,000 wild deer and found 257 of them infested with CWD. The most concentrated areas occurred in two distinct clusters, one just to the northeast of Rockford (Winnebago County) and the other to the southeast. Spread of the disease from these clusters was primarily to the east and southeast along major riparian corridors (and that borders waterways), the north and south fork of the Kishwaukee River and its tributaries. This affects Boone, western McHenry and northern DeKalb counties. CWD had also been found in locations distant from the core area such as Stephenson, western Winnebago, Ogle and LaSalle counties. Such locations typically consisted of a single positive animal and had no evidence of significant disease establishment. The exceptions were found in eastern Ogle and southeast DeKalb County, where two to three positive deer were identified from a single section.”

The interesting facts here are, there are no check-ins for testing purposes for CWD in LaSalle and DeKalb counties at the time this book was issued. The only way to “test” the deer is to kill it. It would be interesting to find out how many were “tested” to find the positives in DeKalb and Ogle counties. I spoke to Doug Dufford from the DNR after a friend of mine hunted second season last year and saw no deer tracks — none! Mr. Dufford told me, “We have killed every animal from 51-39 on the south fork of the Kish there was.”

Chronic wasting disease, better known as CWD, by the Illinois DNR’s admission, is a disease that affects only the host animal. This was discovered in Wisconsin about the time the test for CWD was developed. There then was a grant from the USDA to combat this in different states. The money actually came from the equine (horse) budget. What was determined was to start “testing deer.” Unfortunately for the deer, the only way to do that is to kill them. Then, a sample is tested, and if determined not to have CWD, the animal is processed and given to feed the hungry. How this happens is, the land owners are approached and asked for permission to take “samples.” The unfortunate thing is there are no ways to control the number of samples taken. Where we are right now is, the DNR is bound and determined to eradicate our largest game animal in Illinois.

To all the land owners — you do not have to let the DNR on your land. There is nothing they can do about it. They have told people various stories to get access. They have pretty much killed off the herd in Castle Rock and Lowden State Park. This affects everyone, not just hunters or folks that like seeing wildlife. The state of Wisconsin around Mt. Horeb, where this was initially discovered, has taken a wait-and-see attitude. What really happened is, the residents were told by the DNR that if they didn’t grant land access, the DNR would shoot them from the sky. The outcry from the public stopped that plan. Maybe that’s what we need here.

I’m trying to bring light to the situation here in Illinois, and the determination of the DNR to kill every deer north of Route 80 in Illinois. I know there was a petition circulated trying to get the wanton killing stopped. I would like anyone who has experiences, good or bad, with the DNR, to forward them to this paper. Remember, you can’t make anything better by killing it.

David Wiehle is a self-employed businessman and lifelong deer hunter in DeKalb County who owns 15 acres of wooded land along the Rock River.

From the March 28-April 3, 2012, issue

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